U.S. President Barack Obama is calling on Americans to adopt a new spirit of service and sacrifice as the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan come to an end.
President Obama paid tribute Friday to those who have served in the nation’s military at a ceremony marking the U.S. holiday of Veterans Day.
The event was held at Arlington National Cemetery outside Washington — where many service members are buried.
Before his address, President Obama participated in a wreath-laying ceremony to honor service members who have been killed.
Mr. Obama called for ensuring that military personnel who do come home receive adequate care, benefits and opportunity. He highlighted steps he has taken to help, including ordering the federal government to hire more veterans and challenging business leaders to hire 100,000 veterans or spouses of veterans who served after the 2001 terrorist attacks.
Veterans Day commemorates the date in 1918 when the cease-fire agreement was signed that ended the battles of World War One . It is observed in Europe and elsewhere as Armistice or Remembrance Day.
President Obama also travels Friday to the southern California city of San Diego, where he will speak on a U.S. Navy carrier, the USS Carl Vinson. He will then attend a Veterans Day basketball game on the carrier featuring teams from two U.S. universities .
In the U.S., the holiday comes less than two months before all U.S. troops are due to leave Iraq. In Afghanistan, nearly 100,000 American service members remain. U.S. combat troops are set to complete their withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. International forces have already begun transferring security responsibility to their Afghan counterparts.
Earlier this month, President Obama issued a proclamation honoring the men and women of the U.S. armed forces. The proclamation said that in times of war and peace alike, “our veterans have served with courage and distinction in the face of tremendous adversity, demonstrating an unfaltering commitment to America and our people.” He said many have made the ultimate sacrifice to preserve the country they loved.
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has also issued a Veterans Day message extending his thanks to troops and veterans. He said the U.S. owes a profound debt to all veterans and military families, noting that President Obama has designated November as Military Family Month.